Even before the explorations of Giovanni da Verrazzano (1524) and the discoveries of Jacques Cartier (1534-1536), French sailors regularly crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland. In fact, fish became a highly prized foodstuff in Europe in the 16th century. The voyages organized by ship owners and merchants sailing from port cities such as La Rochelle, as well as cod fishing, were based on various types of contracts. One of these, the charter party, which governed the conditions of the transaction, was copied out twice on the same sheet to prevent falsification, with each of the parties concerned given one half. The sedentary fishing practised by the first ships along the coast of the New World provided contact with the Aboriginal people, since the fish was salted and dried on land. These fishing posts were not always successful. In 1663, the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France ceded to François Doublet, a merchant from Honfleur, the Îles de la Madeleine, Île Saint-Jean, Île des Oiseaux and Île Brion—land that was previously granted to Nicolas Denys. Doublet set out with 25 men. On Île Brion, he encountered Basques who were hunting seals. He erected storage sheds and a dwelling; he hunted and fished. Doublet returned to France in the fall of 1663, leaving about 20 men to spend the winter on the island. The next spring, he found it deserted and the structures in ruins.

Fishing Voyages
La pesche des morues vertes et sèches sur le Grand Banc et aux costes de Terre-Neuve [Green and dry cod fishery on the Grand Banks and the coast of Newfoundland], detail from a map of North and South America, by Nicolas de Fer, 1698
CA ANC NMC-26825